IN this edition, we take a look at the career of Ferenc Puskas, the Hungarian striker of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s who made his name in world football for his goals and performances for his country and giants Real Madrid – who he travelled to Ibrox with in 1963.
Born in 1927 in Budapest, Puskas played for Kispest – renamed Budapest Honved after becoming an army club – in his early years as a footballer and it was here that he would lay down the foundations for his future endeavours. During his career at Budapest Honved, Puskas contributed to the club winning five Hungarian league titles with his goals ensuring he finished as the league’s top scorer in 1947/48, 1949/50, 1950 and 1953. He found the net 50, 31, 25 and 27 times in those campaigns respectively and in 1948 was the top goalscorer in Europe.
After two years at the club he made his international foray as he represented his country Hungary for the first time in 1945, scoring in a 5-2 win over nearby Austria. His record for his nation was quite simply astounding. With 85 caps, the forward notched 84 goals. That sort of scoring record is a world class achievement in its own right, not mentioning what he would go on to do at Spanish giants Real Madrid. With four goals at the tournament, Puskas was Hungary’s central figure as they won gold at the 1952 Olympics, including the opening goal of the final where they saw off the challenge of Yugoslavia with a 2-0 victory in Helsinki, Finland. Puskas’ goalscoring ability and tremendous skill played its part in Hungary becoming the world’s No.1 ranked team in the early 1950s, epitomised by their double schooling of England. In a friendly at Wembley in November 1953, in a game dubbed ‘Match of the Century’, Puskas scored two in a 6-3 win for the Magyars. A reverse tie was played in Budapest the next year, Puskas grabbing another brace as the English were humbled 7-1.
Puskas scored in the 1954 World Cup final loss to West Germany but his time at the upper echelons was only just beginning as, at the age of 31, he joined Real Madrid. His first season saw four hat-tricks scored and a first European Cup secured. The second one was perhaps the sweetest for Puskas as he finished the European Cup top scorer with 12 goals as Real Madrid lifted the silverware again. The famous 7-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt – who Rangers had lost out to in the semi-finals in that year – at the Hampden Park final is part of Scottish football’s national stadium folklore and some regard it as the greatest ever game of football played. It’s some praise and Puskas was certainly entitled to be there as he scored four times in Glasgow. He would later grab another European Cup final treble in a 5-3 loss to Benfica in 1962 and win his third European Cup in 1966.
His first La Liga title didn’t come until 1960/61 but it kick-started a period of utter dominance for the Madrid side with five league winner’s medals being collected by the Hungarian legend. In total, five Spanish titles, one Spanish Cup and three European Cups – with a phenomenal goals record of 242 in 262 matches for Real Madrid. Puskas will forever be remembered as one of the true footballing gods.
RANGERS have faced one of the world’s biggest and most successful clubs Real Madrid on only two occasions competitively and it came all the way back in the 1963 European Cup.
The Spanish cracks, the club that of course holds the record for the amount of European Cup wins it has amassed over the years, came to Glasgow in the first round (or preliminary round as it was known that year) of the European Cup in the 1963/64 season having won the competition twice in Puskas’ time at the club up until that date. Puskas would go on to score 28 goals in 33 appearances for the Bernabeu side that season, with 187 goals achieved since his unveiling at Real Madrid just five years before.
In the first leg encounter, Rangers managed to contain a star-studded Real Madrid outfit – with Puskas, Alfredo di Stefano amongst others – for the majority of the game in front of a mammoth 80,000 fans at Ibrox Park. John Greig, Ralph Brand, Willie Henderson and Jim Baxter were some of the names to line-up from the start of the game for Rangers. In fact, Rangers troubled Real throughout and especially in the first half with Jim Forrest going close with a long-range shot and Brand hitting the post with a Real defender clearing on the line.
The Gers kept the pressure up in the second half and tested Jose Araquistain in the Real goal but with four minutes left, tragedy struck for the Gers. Real hit on the breakaway and who else but Puskas was there to finish the move off and give the visitors the 1-0 win and slender advantage going into the reverse tie.
In the second leg Scot Symon’s Rangers were no match for a still legendary Real Madrid side as the Spaniards ran out 6-0 winners in front of 90,000 fans at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Spanish capital. Puskas was the main architect of Rangers’ downfall as he found the back of the net three times as he scored a hat-trick – a common theme in games that the Hungarian played in during his career.
Ibrox has seen many excellent players over the years, but despite the fact the game took place many years ago, there should always be an argument for one of the best to ever grace the pitch was Mr Ferenc Puskas.